Belfast Telegraph

Real exit doesn't make City's life easier, says Guardiola

Champions League last-16 (Agg 3-2), The Etihad, Tonight, 8.00pm

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola

By Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola insists Real Madrid's exit does not make Manchester City's task in the Champions League any easier.

The holders were surprisingly eliminated by Ajax at the last-16 stage last week, while another fancied side in Paris St Germain were knocked out by Manchester United.

But Guardiola, who maintains his team are still a junior outfit in European terms, says that does not mean the competition is opening up for quadruple-chasing City.

Guardiola said: "If people think it will be easy because Real Madrid are out, they still don't understand this competition.

"Of course, it's incredible - four-time winners in five years, three in a row. It's the best team in the last decade. It's incredible what they have done. I thought they were the favourites.

"Hopefully we can be in the quarter-finals but the teams will be of a similar level to Real Madrid because they are top."

City still have work to do to secure a quarter-final after requiring a late fightback - with 10 men - to beat Schalke 3-2 in the first leg of their last-16 tie. They meet again at the Etihad tonight.

Guardiola said: "We didn't expect PSG would happen, or Real Madrid. People say there is nothing to do but one red card, one goal in the first minute - many things can happen in 90 minutes.

"I would say we are quite lucky that we played 10 v 11 for 23 or 24 minutes when 2-1 down. Normally in those circumstances, you are almost out. We were lucky, really. We still have a job to do."

City have won three Premier League titles since 2012 but are still to transfer their domestic success to the European stage.

They are yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals under Guardiola and their best showing remains their run to the semi-finals in 2016.

Guardiola said: "We are teenagers in this competition, but we want to win it. The best way is to feel this pressure. We have to dream."

Guardiola believes City fans' love of the Champions League is growing. Supporters have been slow to embrace the competition, not helped by their dislike of Uefa, which manifests itself in the booing of the anthem.

Guardiola said: "Last time there were fewer boos. My feeling is now the people are starting to enjoy this competition."

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